Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Photographer

One of the various joys that attend hiking with Ken and Ann Stampfer is watching Ken with his camera and then seeing how he captures a hike when he sends his photos along. He’s a gifted photographer; how fitting for a well-respected Boston-area ophthalmologist to be good with an art that pertains to vision. I’m sure I look as forward to his photos as he looks forward to what I have to write about our journeys into the mountains. Two mediums, one story told in different ways.

Yesterday, the original plan was to hike Galehead and the Twins (or some portion of the three) but low-lying clouds robbed us of what would be some of the better views of the Whites. Instead, Ann relied on her encyclopedic knowledge of beautiful places up here to suggest the day called for a journey up to Nancy Cascades and Nancy Pond. Ken and Ann have been quietly hiking the White Mountains for years, passing below the radar screen, and I have benefited from following them around over the past few months of Saturdays.

In my eyes, the Stampfer's represent what hiking was meant to be before people like me were seduced by lists and the mania of keeping up with one another. They are in the mountains for the sake of the experience itself. Yes, Ken takes beautiful photos of their mountain adventures, but he does that simply because that’s what a photographer does, and not for bragging rights. Our Saturday sojourns have been like detox for this hiker bred on hiking by way of lists in a somewhat competitive exercise. I woke up one day and realized I didn’t enjoy doing lists just because other people did them. Instead I wanted to maximize my internal satisfaction by what brings joy to me up here. Atticus and I have been lucky to join Ken and Ann and relax into what I perceive as the best way to appreciate something one loves.

Yesterday’s misty walk through the woods gave focus to the forest itself. Nancy Cascade was beautiful and powerful and Nancy Pond, although I’m told it is beautiful was all but invisible in the fog. Instead we were rewarded by the lush green look of a rainforest and endless colonies of the most spectacular spider webs, their fibers lined with moisture and suddenly visible to the eye. At times there we so many distinctive bell-shaped webs they reminded me of ornaments on a Christmas tree. My camera and my eye did not do them justice. However, this morning Ken sent over a photo of one of the “normal” webs we encountered.

He made the shot work to his advantage by focusing on the water drop in the center of the web. It’s both delicate and beautiful and if we didn’t associate webs with spiders, it would be a considered art fit for any home. And it is captured for all time by a photographer’s eye.

[A little aside for you Newburyport readers who remember Doug Cray: Ken was Doug’s doctor and when Doug discovered I had a relationship with Ken he was pleased beyond words. With six months left in Doug’s life, his son Kevin and I (and Atticus) took him to see Ken at Mt. Auburn Medical Center for one last check-up. If you know Doug at all, you can imagine how memorable the trip was, especially just heading in and out of the ‘big city’.]

(The top photo is by me, taken of Ken. The bottom is Ken’s, as described above.)

1 comment:

Thomas F. Ryan said...

PS: I think I should point out, for those of you who don't know, that Ken Stampfer's photographs have been prominently used in Steve Smith's books and his greeting cards and some framed photos can be purchased at Steve's store, the Mounain Wanderer, in Lincoln, New Hampshire right along the Kanc.

(I'm lucky enough to have some of them framed and matted and adorning the walls of my apartment, too!)